It’s that time of year once again: Graduation. It doesn’t seem so very long ago that I walked up the aisle in what’s now the “old” gym at KAHS. (Remember that, Joe Arnold?)
There wasn’t a kindergarten
graduation in my day (that I can remember). And no sixth-grade graduation either. But then I was in Minneapolis for sixth grade.
I’ve been thinking a lot this past year about my own sixth-grade experience. Mostly because my son was in sixth grade. I was mentally comparing curriculum, challenges, frustrations, and victories, then and now.
Turns out I didn’t have it so rough.
I loved school. Always did. I probably would have attended school 11 months a year, if I could.
I lived a half block from school, and we got to go home for lunch each day. I was a School Patrol, complete with the flag and that oh-so-neat harness thingy for it.
We didn’t have Band in elementary school, but I took French two days a week at lunch time (instead of going home).
I remember doing a lot of independent study in sixth grade. That’s something I loved and something I really excelled at.
We helped each other learn, too. That was something new, and a valuable skill that wasn’t valued so much after sixth grade. Too bad.
It was the time of the Vietnam War, and another student (whose last name was Marx) and I wrote protest lyrics to popular songs like “Those Were The Days.” That was probably the peak of my career as a protester or consciencious objector or anything like that.
I liked my teacher, Mrs. Jacobs, and I felt that she liked me. I stayed after school almost every day, to organize the supply closet, clean erasers, or do anything just to be there more.
In the summer, I played school with my two younger sisters. I think I was always the teacher. They weren’t nearly as enthused about school as was I. I have a feeling that my playing teacher didn’t increase their love of school any.
I could feel a little deprived, not having a graduation ceremony from sixth grade into that gigantic junior high school. But I think we got something even better.
To mark the momentous occasion of passing into the nearly-grown-up world, our teacher invited us all to her house on Lake Calhoun. I can’t remember how I got there, or how I got home. But I do remember the feeling of privilege and honor of reaching that point.
Makes me want to look up Mrs. Jacobs and see if she’s still living. I want to thank her for a very memorable year, one that was pivotal in making me who I am today. I’m sure she’s been retired for a long time, and there are now condos where the elementary school once stood.
We all have graduations of different kinds, and not necessarily related to school.
Maybe “passages” would be a better word for them.
We complete one stage and pass on to the next. Sometimes there’s not much difference, but other times it can feel like graduating from sixth grade into junior high: a really big deal. And sometimes a big, scary deal.
Rather than rushing from one stage immediately into the next, it’s good to recognize the process and the passage itself. Take a moment to savor the accomplishments that got you there. Then take a deep breath and a big step into the next stage.
Life today is too rushed. We expect immediate results. We focus on the destination and lose the joy of the journey.
To all the graduates this year, whatever you’re graduating to or from, I congratulate you. Savor the moment. Let the importance of your achievement really sink in. Revel in it. You did it!
Then get ready for the next level. When it’s time, hunker down and just do it again. You can do it!
For those of you beyond the school years, take a moment to contemplate the various graduations there have been in your life so far. New job, getting married, having children, medical treatment completed, finally running that marathon. Watching your own child graduate is a graduation for you the parent, don’t forget.
In that sense, I might be a bit jealous of teachers. They work really hard, and there’s a graduation of sorts every year. A job finished, A fresh start in the fall.
Hurrah for fresh starts!